Whilst others may lament that this year’s game isn’t that much different than last year’s effort, and rate the game accordingly, the new story campaign, alone, makes the game a worthwhile purchase. I mean, come on, Activision has been regurgitating the same Call of Duty gameplay for years.
FIFA 18 further refines digital football, allowing players to customise their experience according to taste, play online or offline, collect cards and create their ultimate team, as well as enjoy a brand new solo story campaign.
The Frostbite Engine continues to provide FIFA 18 with realistic player and manager likenesses. The lighting, animations and ball physics are pretty fantastic. The fact that you can pause and view faultless replays in slo-mo is a testament to the accuracy of the engine. The intuitive way you can dribble the ball to confuse the defenders feels so natural. The AI when playing solo offers a real challenge from semi-pro level upward.
My one gripe with FIFA 18 is the commentary. The facts, starts and general banter between the commentary teams for both Madden NFL 18 and NHL 18 blew me away. The team-specific anecdotes and player information in those games flow like proper conversations. It puts the stunted, lazy and repetitive commentary in FIFA 18 to shame. I expect better.
Easily dismissed as being part of EA’s politically-correct tokenism programme, the Women’s National Tournament returns this year. Offering more than just women’s skins on male models, the form, and play style feel different than their male counterparts.
The meat in the already very full sandwich is part two of last year’s story campaign, The Journey: Hunter Returns. FIFA 18 allows you to follow the further fooballing adventures of Alex Hunter. Picking your favourite team for Alex to play for, you head to LA for a preseason tournament against the likes of AC Milan and LA Galaxy. This solo campaign is very well done, featuring the voice talents of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Rio Ferdinand.
The Journey is more than just an interactive movie, which is how I found Madden NFL 18’s campaign. You start out by plating a three-on-three street game in the shadow of Rio’s flavela. You also partake in training matches and practise drills.
But it’s the story that drives The Journey, allowing you to adjust Hunter’s persona in a way that pleases fan or you manager. Of course, there’s plenty of FIFA football to be played as well, but the story creates an engaging narrative that so much more cultivated and personal that just playing the career mode.
Career mode allows you to take on the role of manager or player, and for this year features interactive transfer negotiations. A lot of effort has been put into animation the exchanges between the managers, but it’s something that you’ll only really want to watch once. In any case, I think The Journey trumps career mode, now. Online play is more than accommodated with Season and one-off games a breeze to set up.
FIFA Ultimate Team is still as addictive as before, especially if you grew up collecting football cards and stickers, like I did. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as building a rag-tag group of players into your own personal super-team. Micro-transactions aside, it’s my favourite mode in the game, and right across all of the EA Sports games.
This year’s FIFA, whilst not a revolution, is most definitely an evolution, pushing the veteran football franchise in the right direction- ignoring the poor commentary, whilst maintaining the greatness that’s come before. Smart, fluid and gorgeous to look at, FIFA 18 is a sure-fire winner.